The most popular core for paddles is a polymer honeycomb core. Simply, its high-quality plastic in a multi-celled honeycomb shape that give the paddle a combination of both good power and control, while also being lightweight. Most players prefer the polymer core because it can be used for both the power strokes at the start of a point and then it transitions well into the finesse game at the net, or the “kitchen”, where most of the point will be played.
The other two cores are Nomex and Aluminum cores. Nomex, a fire-resistant material used in construction and airplane design, is very similar to strong cardboard. Nomex paddles are very powerful and are also the loudest of all the cores resounding a noticeable “twok” when a ball is struck. Nomex is not as strong at the net as its control and finesse is questionable, but if you want to add power to your game, it’s the best core by far.
On the other end of the spectrum, aluminum cores are all about finesse. Great for dink shots at the net, they suck the power out of the ball making them a difficult choice for players that need the extra boost from the baseline, but great for players that excel at the net. An aluminum core is probably not a beginner’s paddle, but if you know you hit with maybe too much power, it might be a good choice for you.
The surface materials available for paddles moderate between graphite and fiberglass. Graphite paddles, in general, are better for the power game with their inflexible sturdy surface. Fiberglass can provide more feel and elasticity in your paddle.